Thursday, June 25, 2009

suburban-urban chef…

When my sister and I planned to go to Frankfort Country Market on Sunday we had more in mind than just our usual perusal of the great vendors. We were primarily interested in attending the cooking demo given a local Chef star,
Dan McGee.

We arrived at the market early so not to miss the Chef demo and found that we had enough time to purchase our veggies and gluten-free baked goods and settle into the audience for the demo.

It was the perfect June day, so it was easy to kick backm, enjoy the beautiful sunny weather and inhale the wonderful aromas coming from the portable demo kitchen as the chef and his son set up their mise-en-place and plates for service.

Chef McGee explained that he was preparing a tasting of three courses that were from his contemporary seasonal American menu at his restaurant,
Dan McGee Restaurant and Catering.

The items on the demo menu were a creamy Carrot Soup garnished with a cilantro and apple chiffonade and Sesame oil, a light summer salad of micro greens in a Parmesan crisp basket with a Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing and a dessert of summer fruits drizzled with a rich warm sabayon.

Prior to the beginning of the demo I introduced myself to the chef, asking if I could take some unobtrusive images and inquiring as to what he was preparing to see if I could sample it and remain gluten-free. He was warm and very gracious, agreed to my photography and explained that the food he was preparing in the demo was indeed gluten-free.

At first sip, the Carrot soup had a soft creamy fresh taste with a gentle punch of oriental flavor from the Cilantro and Sesame oil. I loved that the apple chiffonade added a textural crunch and brightness to the creamy soup.
My sister was in rapture over the soup and took copious notes so she could try this dish at home.

The salad demo began with Chef McGee illustrated the precise, but easy to do steps to make a Parmesan cheese basket to fill with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressed micro greens. He toasted a medium-sized long grate of Parmesano Reggiano into a non-stick pan. When the cheese became golden brown and delicious he gently formed the warm cheese round over a large juice- sized can covered with aluminum foil.

As the Parmesan cooled, it became a beautiful lacy container for the crisp summer greens making for a stunning presentation...a study in lovely simplicity.
In his restaurant, this delightful course is listed as a “Simple Salad” on the menu just in case you want to order it when you go there for a meal.

However, the taste was anything but simple.
I tasted salty, sweet, crunchy, soft, tangy, and fresh in each bite. My overall impression was that this salad combination was not only chic, but had a touch of genius.
Yet it was a dish that I could possibly replicate in my home kitchen. And since I am growing my own micro greens in my container garden, this “Simple Salad” is something that I am sure that I will try to replicate throughout the summer.

Throughout the demo, Chef McGee was very gracious, taking questions from the audience. He answered my query and talked about his training and experience.
As he worked on the sabayon for the desert, he told of his formation training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, a culinary school of very high regard in the US,

His experiences include the L'Hotel Crillion in Paris, La Plaza Hotel in Switzerland, and Swissôtel in Lima, Peru. After working throughout the United States, he returned to Chicago to the Park Hyatt, Charlie Trotters, Hotel Nikko, The Mid-America Club, and Swissôtel in Chicago before opening Dan McGee Restaurant in Frankfort, Illinois.

For those of you unfamiliar, a sabayon is the French cousin of the light, egg-based Italian dessert zabaglione. A sabayon is made by beating egg yolks with a liquid over simmering water until thickened and increased in volume. ( the liquid can be water, but champagne or wine is often used for a savory sabayon.)

The sabayon must not get too hot during cooking or it will become grainy: if it begins to feel warmer than body temperature, remove the pan briefly from the heat, beating continuously, until the mixture cools. Then return the pan to the heat and continue cooking.
Sabayon can be served warm or cold; a cold sabayon is beaten off the heat until cooled.

The dessert that Chef offered us was utter simplicity, perfect for a Farm Market setting, but with a touch of Parisian flair. The blueberries and quartered strawberries were drizzled with the rich custardy sabayon, not too much…but enough to make each summery sweet mouthful seem decadent. And although the dessert was served on a paper plate in the middle of Illinois, my tastebuds were remembering Paris.

In the autumn of 2007, Chef Dan McGee opened the doors to his neighborhood restaurant that features contemporary décor. On our way home from the Frankfort Country Market my sister and I stopped to scout the restaurant’s location for a future meal.

The exterior and placement in a strip mall was misleading. Peering through the window, I found the interior space to be clean and urban, but warm and welcoming. Herbs and flowers were happily thriving together planted outside the window where inside, tables were set with pristine linens and sparkling silver and crystal.

If the food that I tasted from his demo is any indication of the Chef Dan’s offerings in the restaurant, I am looking forward to sitting down for a meal at this hidden suburban-urban restaurant.

The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
and for dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (last seating at 9 p.m.)
Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Dan McGee Restaurant and Catering
330 W. Lincoln Hwy.
Frankfort, IL 60423
(815) 469-7750


Peter said...

No main dish? A light lunch especially during hot summer days is nice! I would be happy to go already for the sabayon!

H2 said...

Terri: that carrot soup and microgreen salad are just what I need for a Sunday luncheon with dear relatives.

Can you link me up to recipes? The parm basket is brilliant, period.

Dedene said...

If McGee worked at the Crillion, that's good enough for me!
In France, these types of events are known as "foodings". Isn't that hysterical?

PS. Whenever you want a little goodie from France, let me know!

5 Star Foodie said...

Sounds like a fun event and a lovely summer lunch!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Salut main was a tasting made in a portable tiny outdoor kitchen.

H2, merci beaucoup for your visit...I do not have the link for the recipe but I will be talking to this Chef later today and I will see if he can email me the recipe.
I planned on making it and serving it cold on the fourth of July but I rarely use recipes. Once I know the ingredient list and have tasted something, most of the time I can pretty much make the dish.

If I can't get theh recipe I will tell you how I made it.

I agree H2, the parm basket is brilliant...

Salut chêre Dedene...I totally agree...anyone that has worked for Guy Savoy and lives to tell about it is a hero and a great chef in my book...! ! !
Here is a link to an article that I thought that you would enjoy about "foodings" that I had planned to use for my "Sunday links" this get a preview:

Dedene, please email me @ with your US foodie wish list and I will email you back with mine...

Bonjour chêre Natasha...merci for your kind comment...hope that you are well.


jeanette, mistress of longears said...

Sounds like a dream of a day!

cookiecrumb said...

Look here, you, Terrie. You commented for the first time today on my blog, and I have just experienced Day Three of my own gluten-free diet, to self-diagnose my malaise.
How cool is that?

Camera Crazy said...

That little basket looks scrumptious. I've heard of grating mounds on a cookie sheet and baking them but I've never seen it done like this! Everything looks fabulous. And of course the photographs....

Bramley said...

Nice inspire me to see more (and capture and do more), Thérèse!

There was a small Italian restaurant that I always used to visit to have zabaglione, but they stopped making it for some time now (for a while, Chef used to make it for me if I asked nicely, but then...*sigh*).

Sabayon sounds equally yummy (and the photo is to die for) - I think I will have to learn to make it at home!

Be well,